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‘Optimistic’ Cuban youths prepare to welcome Obama

‘Optimistic’ Cuban youths prepare to welcome Obama

Youth speak more hopefully than their elders
They seek more cultural exchanges with the U.S.
“Everyone is talking about the visit”

Special to the Miami Herald

When Barack Obama takes the mound on Tuesday to throw out the
first pitch in the historic baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and
a Cuban national team, he won’t be the first American emissary to Cuba
even this month. On Sunday last week, American DJ Diplo greeted
thousands of Cubans, mainly young, at the Tribuna Antiimperialista.

Many of the fans singing along at that show, which was reported by the
state paper to have drawn 400,000 people, were young and have a fervent
appreciation for American music and culture. While President Obama won’t
have them dancing in the streets, many young Cubans are aware that his
visit means a potential change in the relationship between the two
countries. They speak hopefully of more cultural and academic exchange,
and express few of the reservations of their grandparents regarding a
future of closer ties to the United States. For a biology student,
closer economic and cultural ties to the U.S. could mean better
equipment and the chance to study there. For Cubans that work in
or the growing private sector, it means more money coming into the
country, which could break down the biggest barrier to and
cultural exchange for many Cubans: money.

Dianela Guerra, 18, and Tamara Acosta, 18 are both in their first year
studying microbiology at the of Havana.

“Everyone is talking about the visit,” she said, especially the baseball
game between a Cuban team and the Tampa Bay Rays. Students from Cuban
universities are being selected to attend, including 35 from their .

Guerra said that the baseball game is especially important to Cubans
because it’s a social exchange, not a diplomatic one. She said a
baseball game will be a much more memorable experience for Cubans than a
photo op or press conference, and that young people tend to focus more
on social and cultural relationships than political ones.

Guerra and Acosta were near the front of the crowd of young Cubans for
the DJ Diplo concert. They said there is a generational split in
perception of Obama’s visit.

“Our grandparents don’t think the United States has good intentions,”
Acosta said, adding that their grandparents’ generation, ’s
generation, saw Cuba before the revolution and during the years of
hostility with the U.S. But for Guerra and Acosta, “it’s in the past,”
she said, motioning backwards with her hands.

“I’d like to go to a microbiology lab in the U.S.,” Guerra said. She
suspects there is better technology available in the labs there.

“We have hope that things are different,” she said of the relationship
between the countries. Guerra and Acosta will be watching the baseball
game on TV.

Humberto Rosabal Viltres, 19, studies tourism at the University of
Havana. He said he understands the concerns of older Cubans regarding
the history of relations with the U.S.

“This visit doesn’t mean we Cubans are going to deny all the history,”
Viltres said. He mentioned Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro
militant with ties to the C.I.A. U.S. State Department documents
released last June suggest Carriles was responsible for the bombing of a
Cuban airliner that killed 73 people in 1976. Viltres mentioned that
bombing and other victims of past conflict between the U.S. and Cuba.

But Viltres also said that welcoming others and openness to exchange is
a Cuban value and a revolutionary value, and that both countries have
wronged each other, mentioning how the Cuban government seized American
property in the revolution. Viltres said he is encouraged that the two
countries are no longer stuck in political conflict with each other.

Cindy León Abella, 18, a friend of his from the university, said that
most people have high hopes for the change in relationship between the
two countries. She also said young people are “more optimistic” than the
older generations. She hopes that the change will make it easier for
Cubans who left to come back and visit the country. She studies tourism
because she enjoys learning languages and communicating with different
people and she looks forward to more intercambio, or exchange.

“Why can’t Cuban students go to conferences in the U.S.?” she asked.
Cuban students attend some conferences in other countries, but it’s
uncommon for them to go to the U.S. She also said that many Cubans are
in favor Obama’s policy toward Cuba but know that he has limited power
regarding unpopular American policies like the , especially since
he is leaving office soon.

Richal Rubal, 22, paints buildings and does private business on the
side. He said he needs the private business to live the way he wants.

“A political change is necessary between Cuba and the U.S.,” he said,
adding that travel should be made easier between the two countries.

Denisse Cabrera, 21, studies accounting, and her mother, brother and
father live in New York City. She was not able to go because of problems
with the process. She said the Obama visit brings possibility
for change in Cuba.

“I like the U.S. for its economic and social development,” she said.

When asked about the visit while watching while watching a baseball
game, José Manuel, 43, immediately brought up what it means for youth,
including his two sons. One studies chemical engineering at the
University of Havana and the other is doing postgraduate study in
information technology. He thinks both will be helped by more exchange
with the U.S.

“This is the beginning of a new era of intercambio,” he said. He has bad
memories of political hostility, but his children don’t.

He works as a statistician in the in Viñales, two hours outside
of Havana, and he said wants his children to have a chance to go to the U.S.

“They have to know what happened, but what passed, passed.”

Source: ‘Optimistic’ Cuban youths prepare to welcome Obama | Miami
Herald –

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